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mood boards - the ONE THING you should do before starting any project in your home + a free template

Friend, you would never frame a house without making sure the foundation was complete, or wildly change your hair style without first showing your stylist a photo. So why do you get stuck in the trap of thinking that a $25 Target pillow/vase/golden bookend is going to be the answer to all of your design problems? Unless you’re some kind of magical design wizard, you can’t begin with a finishing-touch and expect it to transform your space. You need a PLAN. And I don’t mean a floor plan, I mean a design plan, or what we in the biz like to call…


If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I know it sounds a bit touchy-feely, because it a little bit is. While a floor plan tells a contractor where walls and windows go, where the plumbing will run, and all of the tangible details of how a home will be put together, a Mood Board informs how a space should feel. What the vibe, atmosphere, and aesthetics of the room should be to create the ideal environment that YOU are after. Get this step right and it becomes the guidepost for all future design decisions. THEN when you are at Target you will know if that $25 pillow is really going to work in your space because you have a design blueprint. And I’ll tell you this, not one single project at TLD begins without us making a Mood Board. It’s that critical.

So you’re probably yelling in your head, how do I get myself a Mood Board Tara?!? Here are the 3 steps that you can follow to get your very own design blueprint. Be sure to scroll all the way down for a free template!

STEP ONE: GATHER. I want you to go on Pinterest, Houzz, magazines, the photos and screenshots on your camera roll, heck we’ve even had clients send us photos of their TV screens and pull everything that your heart is drawn to. DO NOT worry at this stage if these things don’t make sense together. Cast a wide net and gather a ton of images. I’m not talking 20 pictures here people. I’m talking 50, 100, 200. Try and get them all into one place and ideally a place you can access from a computer. That might be Pinterest or Houzz, a file folder, whatever makes sense for you. If you are more of an analog person you can absolutely do this with printed images. At TLD we always do this step in Pinterest for our workflow. Know thyself and do what feels right for you.

STEP TWO: CURATE. Now I want you to spread all of those images out (digitally) I want you to put on your editor’s hat and scrutinize these images. What we’re looking for here is common threads. Colors, materials, style elements, what is making some of these images resonate more with you and relate to each other? Try dragging the ones you love most into their own folder, or what we do here, create a sub-section inside of our Pinterest board with our very most favorite images. The ones where you don’t just like a single light fixture over the kitchen island, but the one where the color of the cabinets and the waterfall edge marble-look counters the beautiful bridge faucet and as many things as possible that are contributing to the overall vibe. The images that make you say YEAH I could totally live there. Not every single item in every single photo needs to be perfect for you, but aim for about 80% of this feels right. I want you to try to get these photos down to a manageable amount. If you started with 100 or more, try to get down to 20 per room.

STEP THREE: COMPILE. Now the fun part. You want to take your top images from step two and drag them onto a board. You can do this in specialized software like Photoshop InDesign or Corel or even Powerpoint, but the great news is that you don’t need anything that fancy! Canva is an amazing FREE online program that you can use to create a Mood Board. Tt allows you to resize, crop, and arrange images to your heart’s content. Grab our free Mood Board Template here to get started!

At this point you want to get to 7-10 images that (I’m going to get a little woo woo here, so brace yourselves) symbolize all of your hopes and dreams for your space. I KNOW that sounds lofty but guys, this board is meant to inspire you and help you make design decisions. You want it to sing the song of the home you hope to have so the people in the back can hear it.

A caveat here – if you are working on more than one room, say a bedroom and a bathroom, it is perfectly acceptable (and actually ideal) to create a board for each room. When we are designing an entire house from top-to-bottom, it’s common for us to create 4 or more mood boards (overall style and archit

ectural details, living spaces, bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, utility and mudroom, exterior). But I encourage you to start with 1 or 2 spaces so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Once you have the flow down you can go back and tackle other rooms.

Drag the images around. If one particularly resonates with you, make it larger on the page! Play up the details and common threads that are rising to the surface. It’s also helpful if you can to add just a few words here that really drive home what you are after. Those words could be inviting, calm, exciting, industrial, farmhouse, rustic, casual, inspiring, traditional, mid-century modern, put-together, open and airy, joyful, colorful, whatever resonates with what you want for your space.

Once you’re happy with it, save that bad-boy down as a JPG or PDF. Send it to your phone and mark it as a favorite. Heck, print off a copy and keep it near your desk for when you’re online shopping or in the glove box of your car for when we are allowed to go to retail stores again. That way you can start making intentional purchases and design decisions that move you towards your now super-defined goal of the space that you are dying to call home.

I hope this has excited you to give Mood Boards a try. And if at the end of this you’re saying “Tara, heck yes, I want a Mood Board! But I know with homeschooling my kids or working crazy hours at the hospital right now I do not have the time or energy (or maybe desire) to DIY this thing” then don’t you worry my friend. Team TLD has got you and we would love nothing more than to create one for you! Drop us a line at and we can get you started towards the Mood Board and House of your dreams.


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